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Republic of Congo
MSF in Republic of Congo, 2010
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At the end of 2009, tens of thousands of people crossed the Ubangi River to the Republic of the Congo, seeking refuge from fighting in Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The population of Likouala province, in the Republic of the Congo, has doubled. MSF teams have been working with people living along the river to improve the availability of healthcare in the area.
When MSF arrived in the town of Bétou, only the hospital and one of the three district health centres were functioning. The hospital had been built by MSF in 2003, and teams set to work reorganising the emergency, outpatient, medical, paediatric and surgical departments. Gynaecological, obstetric, nutrition and laboratory services were added. Each month, 340 patients were admitted to the hospital and around 3,000 consultations were held, mostly in relation to respiratory infections, malaria and diarrhoea.
There are now six functional health centres in the district. To reach more remote settlements, mobile MSF medical teams travel up and down the river by boat, providing general consultations and antenatal care, and treating severe malnutrition. These teams carried out on average 10,000 consultations a month, with the most urgent cases being referred to Bétou hospital.
Further south, in the town of Impfondo, MSF started the year supporting the medical, emergency, maternity, surgical and paediatric wards in the general hospital. Teams also worked in health centres and operated mobile clinics to the north and south of the town, carrying out around 3,600 consultations a month. In July, MSF moved its activities to the 20-bed hospital in Bolembé, 60 kilometres south of Impfondo, to be closer to the refugee population.
At the end of 2010, a polio epidemic broke out in the southeast of the country, centred in the city of Pointe-Noire. In total, 542 cases were recorded by the national health authorities, and 220 people died. The resurgence of the disease, the extremely high mortality rate, and the fact that males aged 15 to 30 were the most affected group were all cause for grave concern.
At the request of the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, MSF began work in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Pointe-Noire at the beginning of December. The peak of the epidemic had already passed by the end of the year, but dozens of patients were still being admitted every day. Medical teams treated the symptoms of the disease (such as breathing difficulties and muscle spasms) and two outpatient physiotherapy centres were set up to help patients who had left hospital before their treatment was complete. The programme will end in 2011 and the association Handicap International will take on the provision of physiotherapy and mobility aids to patients.
The health authorities and international agencies carried out a polio vaccination campaign, targeting around three million people. MSF lent logistical support for the vaccination of some 90,000 people living around Bétou.
MSF has worked in the Republic of the Congo since 1997.